What I’m going to talk about today is a personal preference. It definitely works for me. I have no idea if it is something that would work for most people or not, but you take a gander and see if it’s a possibility for you.
One of the games I play at South Point is Multi Strike. Although I play the 25¢ 9/6 Jacks or Better Five Play version of Multi Strike, the technique I’m espousing works on any version of the game. It also works on Super Times Pay and Double Super Times Pay, along with a few others.
The way Multi Strike works is you bet four lines at once, making it a 20-coin game for the single play version and 100 coins for the Five Play version. For every paying hand that you have (meaning you get at least your money back) on the first level (called 1x), you get to play the second level (2x) with twice the pay schedule but with no additional ante. For every paying hand on the second level, you get to play the third level (4x) at four times the pay schedule. Do that one more time and the top level is 8x.
The correct strategy for each of the four levels is different, making it a game where you need to stay on your toes at all times because if your mind wanders, it’s easy to use the wrong strategy at any particular time.
Periodically on one or more of the 1x, 2x, or 4x levels you get a “Free Ride,” which means you will progress to the next higher level whether you have a paying hand on the current level or not. How often this happens depends on the game, but when it does, the correct strategy is always exactly the same as the 8x strategy, which is always the same as the strategy for the base game.
The technique I’m talking about today is on the hands where you get a Free Ride. On the machines I play, when you get a Free Ride, you usually see the first two cards, then hear a musical riff, and the machine pauses for a few seconds. After the pause, and some graphics indicating you get the Free Ride, you eventually see the remaining three cards. (It is possible that different generation machines do this a bit differently, but the principle is the same.)
What I do when this happens is to notice if and how the first two cards are related to each other. I also notice if one or both cards are high (jacks or better) or low.
The first thing I notice is whether I have a pair, which happens one in 17 times. If it’s a high pair, then I know I’ll be holding them unless I have a 4-card royal or 4-card straight flush in the hand. If it’s a low pair, I’ll hold them unless one of the above two conditions occurs or the hand ends up containing a 3-card royal, and/or a 4-card flush, or specifically KQJTT.
Without a pair, I look for cards of the same suit, which happens 23.5% of the time. I notice if they are close enough to each other to be part of a straight flush or royal flush draw. If not, maybe I’ll get two more for a flush draw. (Or three, for a dealt flush).
Next, I look for high cards. In Jacks or Better, you hold one, two, or four unsuited high cards, and three if they are specifically KQJ. Other games have different rules.
On unsuited low cards, I check to see if they are close enough to be part of an open-ended straight.
If they are both low and totally unrelated, say 3♣ 9♦, I know I won’t hold them both unless I end up with a dealt two pair or full house.
So why do I do this? Video poker is a boring, repetitious game. You keep doing the same thing over and over again. It’s important to keep my mind engaged. By keeping track of all possibilities, it gives me something to concentrate on.
It’s important not to get too attached to the first two cards. The first cards might well be A♣ J♣, for example, and I’m thinking some kind of a flush, straight, or high card draw is coming up, and I end up holding a pair of fours. This happens often enough so that I make sure I see all five cards before I make my play, but the cards I see early do figure in enough hands that I want to be prepared.
Occasionally it happens that three cards are displayed prior to the machine pausing for a Free Ride. Seeing three cards provides significantly more information than only seeing two cards. Usually, but not always, by the third card flushes and straights are eliminated.
I tell you this because it works for me. Will it work for you too? I have no idea. Maybe you don’t even play a game where you get to see some subset of the cards early. But it might work for some of you and it’s probably worth considering.